Introduction: Menstrual Cycle Explained - With Makey Makey's & Scratch
A week ago I worked with 7th graders on making a "menstrual cycle calendar", which is the topic they're learning about in Biology class. We used crafting materials mostly, but the Science teacher and I decided to include a Makey Makey to insert a small animation in Scratch.
For many of them it was their first time working with Makey Makey's and Scratch, so the activity was rather simple. However, just like most of the projects done in the Makerspace, they all will likely remember the experience of doing this project and you could tell many of the male students were very concentrated during the creation process and learned a lot about what their female classmates experience during the menstrual cycle.
One of them said: "you girls are tough!"
Aside the laughs, the Science teacher and I know the students definitely are aware now of the cycle and hope they're more empathetic.
P.S. Having multiple Makey Makeys is key for this kind of activities, as you want the teams to have their own and not damage their connections when sharing boards/alligator cables. In our case, having teams of 3-to-4 people with one kit was ideal. I ordered 10 Makey Makey sets a while ago, and I haven't needed more than that (usually groups have 20-to-25 students)
- Aluminum foil
- Glue roller or scotch tape
- Makey Makey
- Alligator cables
- Play-Doh (optional)
Step 1: The Calendar Creation
Students used carton mostly as the base of the whole project.
They either drew a 2-month calendar or they printed one. On the 2nd month, they added post its to all days but arranged the colors so it was easy to tell the different periods of the menstrual cycle.
They added aluminum paper to the days they would select and animate with Scratch. Although in the beginning we were looking to press a day and get the Scratch sprite to tell us what day of the menstrual cycle was, we had limited time so we narrowed our options to 5 or 6 days as options, selected to show a different stage of the cycle.
Step 2: Connecting the Makey Makeys to the Calendar
It was time to connect the Makey Makey to the aluminum pieces on the selected days of the Calendars.
Alligators cables were connected to the Makey Makeys on one end, and to the aluminum pieces put on the Calendar in the other. Since we only animated 5 to 6 days, we managed to only use the main keys of the Makey Makeys (up, down, left, right, space and/or click) without using the options on the back.
Some students decided to use a Play-Doh ball instead of aluminum pieces, and stuck the ends of the alligator cables to them. That was totally possible, although I regretted offering them that option since my Makerspace ended up with Play-Doh everywhere! haha just so you consider it
For the "Earth" connection, most students connected an alligator cable to it and grabbed the other end to play with the animation. Some of them used a Play-Doh blob that they had to touch, and there were a couple of teams that used an aluminum plate like the one in the photos.
Step 3: Code, Code, Code, Code, Code...
For many of the students it was their first time using Scratch. The tasks we gave them were:
- Add a stage, and customize it
- Use a "girl" sprite instead of the Scratch cat
- Make the sprite say what's happening on the selected days
For the advanced students (or the ones that got the first steps quickly) we encouraged them to change sprites, move the sprites, add sounds... any other animation would work for extra points.
We mostly used two blocks:
- Events -> When "space" is pressed (or any other key)
- Looks -> Say "Hello!" for "2" seconds (message should be changed to fit the activity's topic, of course)
On the photos, though, you can see a version of a code that toggles the sprite after each "answer"... there were more impressive animations than that.
For the explanation, I used a previous project that students had seen before. I have my own Makey Makey and I use it for quick, fun ideas from time to time.
Step 4: Let's Try It Out!
It was finally time to test the Calendars!
Here you can see an actual demo, plus more photos of the whole activity and other Calendars made in the Makerspace. It was a very simple but cool project, and as many students put it: "we had fun with this!"